Sep 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jason Vargas (60) throws a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Vargas or Phil Hughes?


Sep 25, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes (65) pitches during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the offseason, the Royals had been connected to quite a number of starting pitchers, virtually all of which were reclamation projects in some manner. Yet, each of those pitchers – from Josh Johnson to Tim Hudson to recent Twins signing Phil Hughes – all signed with other teams. Instead, the Royals signed Jason Vargas, a pitcher that they were not thought to have any real interest in until just before he was signed.

Vargas and Hughes both received the same amount of money per season, with Vargas getting a 4 year/$32 Million contract and Hughes signing for 3 years at $24 Million. Essentially, the difference in the contracts was an extra year for Vargas.

There are striking similarities between both pitchers. Vargas and Hughes are both extreme fly ball pitchers, needing to pitch in larger ballparks to find success. Both pitchers have been hurt by smaller ballparks over the years, and seemingly need a strong defensive outfield to be successful.

Yet, there are differences as well. Jason Vargas is essentially what he is at this point, and is unlikely to suddenly become any better. What he is happens to be a veteran innings eater who is just about league average. Over the past four seasons, pitching for the Angels and the Mariners, Vargas has averaged a 10-11 record with a 3.97 ERA, with 190 innings per season.

Phil Hughes, meanwhile, has not been nearly as consistent, alternating solid seasons with absolutely abysmal performances. During the same four seasons, Hughes has averaged an 11-10 record with a 4.65 ERA, while spending part of the 2011 season on the disabled list with a ‘dead arm.’ Hughes is also four years younger than Vargas, and has made an All-Star game during his career.

That may have been the question that the Royals asked themselves – whether or not the more consistent, but unspectacular, Vargas was a better investment than Hughes, who could have a much higher upside than anything Vargas could provide.

In the end, both pitchers received similar contracts, with Vargas getting that extra season. Knowing what both pitchers ended up receiving, I now ask you all – which pitcher would you have preferred, Jason Vargas or Phil Hughes?

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Tags: Jason Vargas Kansas City Royals Phil Hughes

  • jimfetterolf

    The thing with Hughes is that the Royals already have Hochevar and Davis, two better arms with inconsistency problems. They needed 200 innings from a #4 starter and that’s what Vargas should provide, a younger Bruce Chen.

    I’m good with the rotation now, three vets and the Young Guns to decide who is #2, who #5, and who a couple of hours away in Omaha. I’m at the point now that beyond a Mark Ellis-type for UIF the only signings I would do are extensions and the only trades I would make are expensive veterans for prospects, Alex at the top of the list, Billy in play, Shields if he won’t extend.

    I would note that Chris Getz has been non-tendered.

    • cardsfanatik

      Your wanting to trade Alex Gordon? Why? That would go down as the single most “take 4 steps back” move in DM’s tenure. Butler okay, but he is also more expensive, and can’t play the field. But you can’t trade ANY of them without adding some major offensive piece. The Royal’s have a window, and what your talking about, is sinking right back into a “rebuild” type of thinking. The fan base is sick and tired of being the rest of MLB’s farm club. Trading Gordon would just be asinine. Unless your getting a Wil Myer’s type in return.

      • jimfetterolf

        Maximum return in prospects with David Lough moving to left. That’s what Tampa would do, which is the appropriate business model for the Royals.

        As for Myers, I assume we could do much better. The K would eat his lunch. Thinking more in terms of AA and A/A+ prospects with maybe a AAA 3B in there.

        As for “windows”, I don’t buy that, more concerned with sustainability and a constant flow of high priced veterans for hot prospects makes that happen. Alex will never be more valuable than this winter, time to consider it.

        • cardsfanatik

          Trade him for AA and A/A+, and mail in this season as well? No thanks. Don’t really even want to discuss this trade any more. And its NOT what Tampa would do, or Longoria would be gone. Extend him. If he won’t sign extension, then trade him at next years deadline, or this off season, You don’t mail in this season as well.

          • jimfetterolf

            Gordon is hardly Longoria and he is going to be expensive to keep while his value decays with age and shorter time of control.

          • cardsfanatik

            KC is NOT trading Alex this season, so we don’t need to discuss this anyway. And he should not be the first to go anyway. First to go should be BB. Alex is twice the ballplayer that BB is. And Alex is not Longoria, but Longoria is not Alex either. Evan couldn’t play the elite defense in LF that Alex does. And I believe that Gordon could be every bit the hitter that Longoria is. So its a mute point. The point I’m making is this. If you trade Gordon NOW, your basically telling your already impatient fanbase, that your mailing in this season as well, which will go over like a lead balloon. The idea of trading Gordon this offseason would be foolish, and foolish doesn’t cover it. Now, if you want to trade him next season, if he won’t sign extension, so be it, but not this year. Unfathomable idea for this year. I see your point also, about keeping cost controlled players, but you can’t ALWAY’S trade away everything JUST to field a team the next year. The fans are sick of it. Start paying players and have a winner, or sell the team.

          • jimfetterolf

            Trading Gordon now isn’t mailing anything in, as Lough is a better defender by the metrics and Alex wasn’t all that on offense last year. In fact, his second half collapse was a hole nearly as large as the one at 3rd.

            Good thing you’re a Cards fan, you don’t have the type of mind to handle a market like KC, Oakland, or Tampa.

          • Hunter Samuels

            Gordon’s 2nd half was still better than Lough’s 2nd half. We also don’t know if Lough’s defensive value will repeat itself, while we have much more of a sample size with Gordon, and it’s safe to say Gordon is a far superior defender. Unless Gordon completely faceplants (which is very doubtful considering his work ethic), the dropoff to Lough would be significant. Short of being blown away by a trade offer, selling Gordon would be a big mistake.

          • jimfetterolf

            Double-checked, Gordon has an option so is still signed for three years, so we can wait ’til next winter. For some reason I thought he only had two left, makes a world of difference.

            As for defense, Lough has a track record in the minors and produced more dWAR than Gordon in half the PAs and was much higher in fangraphs’ Def, and the eyeballs say he’s faster and gets great jumps. That is in mind when thinking of moving Gordon to 3rd if Moose fails agin, no drop off with Lough full-time in left, where his arm plays better.

            Big knock on Lough is the sacred OBP and Lough took walks in the minors, so should go up this year. Last year he got the standard rookie treatment, steady diet of fastball strikes, so not much walking.

          • Hunter Samuels

            About a half season’s worth of defensive data is not nearly enough to assume Lough is better than Gordon. Lough’s track record on defense in the minors is really not that impressive. I watched him for 3 seasons in Omaha and he never screamed “elite defender. When he shared an outfield with Dyson & Cain, he was the 3rd best outfielder by a long shot. Lough wasn’t bad, but the other 2 were just much better. I just can’t agree he gets better jumps than Gordon.

            Also, Lough’s minor league BB% is 6, which is still really bad. It may not be as awful as in ’13, but he’s not a guy who can get on base at a league average rate.

            Lough is also 29, so he’s likely not going to get any better. He’s a fine 4th or 5th outfielder since he’s solid yet unspectacular at many things, but the gap between him and Gordon is significant.

          • jimfetterolf

            David Lough is 27 at the moment, per fangraphs, and Cain may be the best OF in the business with Dyson on the edge of elite with his speed. Gordon is the 3rd best OF with any of the three others on the field. The metrics last year showed Lough much better than Gordon and the eyeballs agree, he made plays, which is why if Gordon moves back to 3rd his glove won’t be missed in left.

            As for trading Gordon, with three years left that’s a never mind. Thought he had two, which is prime trade time, maximizes value.

          • Hunter Samuels

            Ah, I mistyped on the age. Again, defensive metrics in small samples are hardly definitive. I’m not sure what eyeballs saw Lough as a superior defender, because Gordon is probably only topped by Cain in that regard. Of course, Gordon won’t move back to 3rd, because the Royals won’t give up on Moose right now, so the whole discussion is moot, really. But hey, that’s what the offseason is for, right?

          • jimfetterolf

            Lough made some great plays. He’s fast, good first step, good route, adequate arm.

            As for Moose, he’s the biggest current problem on the team. If he starts slow he needs to go to Omaha, should have gone last year. Royals are a better team with even last year’s Alex at 3rd and Lough in left than with Lough in Omaha and Moose at 3rd.

          • cardsfanatik

            There is no need to get hateful, and yes, I am a CARDINAL’S FAN “ALSO”. So what? Does that bother you? And now I see you have done your homework on down the page. Trading Gordon, and relying on Lough is the kind of stupid stuff that got this franchise in the position its in in the first place. Trading Alex Gordon would also send a very clear signal to ANY free agent looking to sign in KC this year, and probably next year as well. Not to mention, if you think that Lough can come close to hitting as well as Gordon, you have been drinking to much of the Blue Kool-Aid that Dayton hands out to fans. Lough is a nice 4th outfielder, but to rely on him on a daily basis, I’m not quite so sure you would be singing his praises come September. He hits for an okay average, with NO power. Lough does not take a TON of walks either, he has 175 in 2600 career minor league at bats. David DeJesus had 122 walks in 921 career minor league at bats. And I never looked at DeJesus as a walk machine. So just where is Lough worth getting rid of Gordon?

          • jimfetterolf

            The reason for looking at trading Gordon next off-season, when he has two years left, is to get maximum return of prospects for an older, expensive veteran.

            It really has nothing to do with Gordon per se, more a matter of being part of the process of building a sustainable contending team in a small market. Gordon just happens to be the most expensive veteran next winter and, assuming the second half wasn’t a harbinger of decline, will have maximum trade value. Billy is another possibility but likely wouldn’t have half of the value of Gordon, being at best a two-tool player in a comfy AL park.

            Lough enters the conversation because he hit well and played very good defense last year, so would fill LF for a couple of years ’til Jorge Bonifacio, Hunter Dozier, or Elier Hernandez is ready. Trading Gordon would be a downgrade on offense, probably an upgrade on defense, would save a big pile of money, and would allow the pick up of a good haul of prospects.

            For our readers, this is the context for the discussion of trades:

            “the only signings I would do are extensions and the only trades I would make are expensive veterans for prospects”

            That is contra the idea of high dollar signings for old guys or trading Ventura-Duffy-Zimmer for established players, which was my point. Last year’s trade of Myers should have been a one-shot outlier to give a boost of legitimacy to the team. But now it’s time to get back to the business model, which is trade veterans for prospects while maintaining a contending team. There are two obvious examples.

          • cardsfanatik

            Well, see now your just arguing with what I said in earlier posts, So you got mad at me for nothing :) I said, trading Gordon next year, makes sense, not this year. I am not “disagreeing” with you. I merely stated that trading him this year, was the complete wrong move. He has this year, next year, and then an option year. So essentially we control him til 2017, if we so choose. Trading him NEXT offseason, makes sense, if you can get a haul of young talent. But in 2016 if he is hitting 25 HR’s with 85-90 RBI’s while batting .285-.300 12.5 million is going to be a bargain also. To much can happen between now and then to trade him THIS year. Now, if we sign Beltran, and their determined to unload BB’s contract, they need to make sure they are getting young “cost-controlled” talent, that is ready to make an impact at the MLB level THIS YEAR, preferably at 2B (Nick Franklin, Kyle Seager) or a young stud third baseman, Seager plays here as well as 2B. Or signing Beltran was a mute point.

          • jimfetterolf

            I missed the option year, so am good with keeping him one more and hoping second half was just a result of his concussion rather than decline.

            As for Billy, doubt he returns a stud anything and may never. Perhaps packaging him with Crow and Collins would get a Seager type. On Franklin I see no use for him at all. I’ll take my chances with Bonifacio while hoping Colon lights up the PCL the first two months then comes up.

          • cardsfanatik

            I’m game for trading Butler, but only if it brings a return that can help at the MLB level this year. I feel that if his numbers bounce back to between last years, and this years, he would have similar numbers to Beltran’s this year. Not saying he would, he has never been much more than an 18-20 HR guy. But if they did, then signing Beltran, and trading Butler is just a wash. But if they could trade Billy to bring in a good second baseman, like Seager, whom if Boni plays well, and Moose tanks, can play third, with maybe a good pitching prospect, or maybe a Stefen Romero from Seattle, I say do it.

          • jimfetterolf

            Brain fart, thinking Seagar was a pitcher.

          • cardsfanatik

            Go to the Mariner’s website, and check out Kyle Seager’s stats from last year, then compare them to Billy’s, and also check out Stefen Romero in their minor league pipeline. This isn’t for argument, I honestly think the offense will only get better for Seager, and he can play 2nd or 3rd. Then Romero is the “have bat will travel” guy. I think you will like them.

          • jimfetterolf

            Seagar had about twice the fWAR as Billy, about the same age, and has positions. Don’t see why Seattle would make that trade, much less throw someone else in.

          • cardsfanatik

            It will depend on what happens with Cano probably, but I wouldn’t be talking just Billy. My trade proposal more than a month ago was Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar, both making around 5 million, and Billy Butler, or one of Crow and Collins with BB, for Seager, and prospect. Because Seattle was wanting RH power bat, and bullpen help.

          • jimfetterolf

            I could see Billy and one or both of the two Cs, I just don’t trust them anymore. Hoch and Davis have much better arms and are dominant in the ‘pen.

          • cardsfanatik

            I think Butler with the 2 C’s would easily get Seager with a good prospect. I would do that trade. Butler with just one of them should be plenty to get Seager also, IMO.

          • cardsfanatik

            Keep in mind also, Billy’s contract is cost controlled the next couple of years also, which is worth something also, along with the two C’s. Seager is not under a “contract” but his salary will go up through arbitration. He’s under team control, but his cost is not a lock.

          • jimfetterolf

            That would work, if Moose hits Seagar can DH or 2B.

          • cardsfanatik

            I actually don’t think it would take Butler with Crow AND Collins to get Seager. I think BB is still regarded as the better player overall. (Not sure why with his inability to play the field) I know that Seattle LOVES his bat, and has tried to get him before. So I think that if you dangle Butler with Crow OR Collins, you could probably get Seager, and a Romero, or one of their young pitchers. However, young pitchers are becoming a premium, so not sure.

          • jimfetterolf

            I’ld take a couple of their young pitchers for Billy and one of two of the C’s, they just don’t make me comfortable anymore. Taijuan Walker has been mentioned as a piece for David Price, so the market is putting a healthy value on the young guns.


    The better question would be……”who cares”? I’m not giving 32 mil guaranteed to either. I would look closer at some arms we already have that have either been on the roster late last year or have shown some ability in Omaha or elsewhere in our farm system.

  • Mungakc

    I’m sort of in the “I can’t believe that we’re left to choose between Vargas/Hughes” category. But if I had to, it would be Vargas. Hughes is younger and only has more potential regarding upside if we’re remembering his minor league career and his prospect status, but that was more than 7 years ago, so that ship has sailed. The fact is that Hughes has had 6 years as a SP in the Majors and has alternated between league average (ERA+ of 102, 103, & 100) and really awful (ERA+ of 67, 74, & 78) ; for the record, his alternating trend says ’14 is the year we get the average Hughes. Also, his WAR is an average of .6 per season in his 6 years of starting. Even in his best season (2012), he pitched a total of 191 innings.

    Vargas has pitched as a starter the past 5 seasons and has averaged 190 innings the past 4 (and that includes making only 24 starts and 150 IP in ’13). Vargas’ ERA+ over the last 5 seasons is 87, 104, 88, 99, & 94 – average twice and below average in 3, but never approaching the three bad seasons Hughes generated. Also, Vargas has had an average WAR of 1.7 over the past 5 seasons.

    The only good season Hughes had was in ’09 when he pitched primarily out of the bullpen (ERA+ 152, WAR 2.6) – but we have Wade Davis and Hochevar to bark-up-that-tree. Vargas is also a lefty, more durable, and fields his position slightly better (talk about pulling at straws). So, yes – I guess I would choose Vargas over Hughes, even at one more year at $8 mill and 3.5 years older. I just wish we weren’t dissecting that choice!

  • Marcus Meade

    Vargas for sure. I’m not sure what people see in Hughes. He’s never had a full season with an ERA under 4, or really even that close to 4. Yes, he’s pitched in the tough AL East and in Yankees Stadium, but the fact is people square him up a lot. He’s also an injury risk. The fact that he was once a prospect doesn’t mean much to me. Give me Vargas, and $8 million a year is not a bad price if he can provide 190-200 innings of roughly 4 ERA baseball. And with the Royals insanely good defense (better than any he’s had before), he may be able to go even lower on that ERA.

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  • Eric Akers

    Ricky Nolasco, 4 for $49 million. Woof. This seems excessive, but the pitching market has gone this way. I would prefer Vargas over Hughes and Nolasco.